Covers the study of (mostly homogeneous) macroscopic systems from a heat/energy/entropy point of view. Maybe combine with [tag:statistical-mechanics].

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Why does a short circuit generate fire?

When a short circuit occurs it's obvious that there is fire. How come electric energy turns out to be heat energy? What causes the conductors to get hot when short circuit is present.
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Existence of negative temperatures and the definition of entropy

How negative temperatures can be possible has been treated on StackExchange before (several times in fact), but in light of some recent academic discussion, most of these answers seem to be possibly ...
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Doesn't the use of a thermometer alter the temperature of the system?

If I place a mercury thermometer in hot water, heat energy will transfer from the water to the mercury inside the thermometer. Will this continue until thermal equilibrium is reached and thus the ...
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Why isn't in counting the no. of degrees of freedom, rotation about the axis running down the length of the molecule counted?

I was reading about the Equipartition Theorem. Then I got the following quotations from my books: A diatomic molecule like oxygen can rotate about two different axes. But rotation about the axis ...
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What made the keys in my pocket so hot?

Not sure where to ask this question - thought you guys would probably have the best idea! Today a single key on my keychain in my pocket heated up so that it was too hot to handle and scalded my leg. ...
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How to work out the relation between the “mean relative speed” and the “mean speed”?

I'm a freshman and am taking the general physics course. I just learned intro thermodynamics. One problem that really puzzles me is the calculation of "collision mean-free path", where calculating the ...
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Hot water freezing faster than cold water

This question has puzzled me for a long time. There is already a question like this on Physics.SE. John's answer to the question seems quite satisfying. But when I googled the cause I found this and ...
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345 views

Strange behaviour of water drops on a heated pan

I did an experiment in my home and I was surprised by the results. I heated a pan without anything in it. After some time it became very hot and I took some water (2 drops) and put it into the pan. It ...
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Chemical potential in Thermodynamics

In many scenarios, on computing the partial derivative of the internal energy (U) with respect to mole number (N) is negative. This implies that adding more moles of the substance decreases the U of ...
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Efficiency of Stirling engine and Carnot's theorem

I want to calculate the efficiency of this Stirling cycle for an ideal gas $pV = nRT$ The mechanical work is $$ \Delta W_{12} = - \int_{V_1}^{V_2} p(V) \mathrm{d}V = -nRT_2 \ln \frac{V_2}{V_1}\\ ...
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Maxwell's Demon Constant (Information-Energy equivalence)

New Scientist article: Summon a 'demon' to turn information into energy The speed of light c converts between space and time and also appears in e=mc^2. Maxwell's Demon can turn information supplied ...
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Why was the universe in a extraordinarily low-entropy state right after the big bang?

Let me start by saying that I have no scientific background whatsoever. I am very interested in science though and I'm currently enjoying Brian Greene's The Fabric of the Cosmos. I'm at chapter 7 and ...
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What conditions do a bunch of atoms need to satisfy to have a temperature?

What conditions do a bunch of atoms need to satisfy to have a temperature? Suppose that we have a beam of helium atoms travelling in a common straight line, equally spaced with the same velocity. If ...
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Modification of Newton's Law of Cooling

Yesterday I randomly started thinking about Newton's Law of Cooling. The problem I realized is that it assumes the ambient temperature stays constant over time, which is obviously not true. So what I ...
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Why does the majority of smoke leave when flames appear?

When I burn wood, paper, or other plant matter, where there is a flame, there generally isn't too much smoke, but it I blow the fire out, smoke starts billowing up. It billows thicker and thicker as ...
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Why does Platinum evaporate if left long enough?

I have been reading into research relating to the redefining the 1 kg weight as the current Platinum-Iridium is becoming smaller. In this article, here, it mentions that the original metal weight ...
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Is there a simple way to derive a T-S diagram from a p-V diagram for arbitrary processes?

Often, for thermodynamic processes only a p-V diagram is shown. Even without hard figures, the shape of the curve can be helpful to evaluate the process. However, it is hard to figure out for real ...
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Are specific heat and thermal conductivity related?

Are there any logical relationship between specific heat capacity and thermal conductivity ? I was wondering about this when I was reading an article on whether to choose cast iron or aluminium ...
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Evaporating water in -30ºC

I don't really know anything about physics even though I pretended studying it for years. How is this explained?: ...
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How can point-like particles in an ideal gas reach thermodynamical equilibrium?

Having learned that the particles of an ideal gas must be point-like (for the gas to be ideal) I wonder how they can reach thermodynamical equilibrium (by "partially" exchanging momentum and energy). ...
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What are the six degrees of freedom of the atoms in a solid?

A monoatomic ideal gas has heat capacity $C_v=1.5$ which comes from the three translational degrees of freedom. For solids at high temperature, $C_v=3$, implying six degrees of freedom. What are ...
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What determines bubble locations in boiling water?

Something a little different to our usual fare. I was boiling a pan of water for cookery the other day, and got to wondering what caused the location of the bubble streams from the bottom of the pan. ...
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Are Carnot engine efficieny and Fourier heat trasmission law related?

It just occured to me that the efficiency of Carnot cycles is $\eta= \frac{T_1 - T_2}{T_1}$, that is, the efficiency decreases as the difference between reservoir temperatures decreases. On the other ...
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Thermodynamically reversed black holes, firewalls, Casimir effect, null energy condition violations

Scott Aaronson asked a very deep question at Hawking radiation and reversibility about what happens if black hole evolution is reversed thermodynamically. Most of the commenters missed his point ...
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How much more energy does it take for a human body to heat 0C ice vs 0C water?

I'm trying to determine if going through the trouble of ingesting ice is worth the hassle versus ingesting ice-cold water, but my physics skills are rusty. If I drink a gram of ice water at ~0C, my ...
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Trying to understand a step in deriving Maxwell-Boltzman statistics

In the Wikipedia article on Maxwell–Boltzmann statistics, there is a point in the derivation that stumps me. When I get to where $\displaystyle W=N!\prod\frac{g^{N_i}}{N_i!}$ is quoted as a count ...
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Can the hot combustion products from a large flame be in “non-local thermal equilibrium”

Question: Does it take some time for the hot combustion products from a flame to reach local thermodynamical equilibrium (i.e. for the energy state populations to follow the Boltzmann distribution)? ...
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What precisely does the 2nd law of thermo state, considering that entropy depends on how we define macrostate?

Boltzmann's definition of entropy is $\sigma = \log \Omega$, where $\Omega$ is the number of microstates consistent with a given macrostate. If I understand correctly, this means that it only makes ...
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Where does the kinetic energy go?

A uniform cylinder was placed on a frictionless bearing and set to rotate about its vertical axis. After a cylinder has reached a specific state of rotation it is heated without any mechanical support ...
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Will entropy continue to increase even if the universe begins to contract?

If the universe is heading for a big crunch, when the universe starts to collapse will entropy decrease and the arrow of time consequently reverse or not? I'm interested in the explanations, not just ...
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How can I understand a Vortex Tube and its efficiency?

A Vortex Tube takes a pressurized input stream, most typically of a gas, and creates two output streams with a temperature differential. Apparently, it has been described as a Maxwell's Demon. Both ...
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How does a maple syrup evaporator work?

Some background info on what an evaporator is: It is a system of metal pans set over a heat source. Sap constantly enters the first pan controlled by a float valve to keep a constant depth. The pans ...
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Why aren't we surrounded by Black holes?

The Bekenstein bound is a limit to the amount of entropy a thermodynamical system can have. The bound is given by the following expression: \begin{equation} S \leq \frac{2 \pi k R E}{\hbar c} ...
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Are two thin blankets significantly warmer than a single thick blanket?

Almost every source I can find online maintains that two 0.5 cm blankets are significantly warmer than a single 1cm blanket due to air trapped between the thin blankets. However, the thermal ...
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radiation thermodynamics paradox

This question is concerned with a thermodynamic paradox for radiating bodies and radiation in a cavity of a specific shape. Consider two nested shells that are axisymmetric ellipsoids with the same ...
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Why does thermal resistance go down as temperature goes up?

Here is the thermal resistance data for three speaker coils disengaged from the speaker cone. Any ideas? I would think it would be a horizontal line. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_resistance ...
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What is the relationship between Energy, Entropy, and Information?

What is the relationship between Energy, Entropy, and Information? I read this - What Is Energy? Where did it come from? - and the top answer says that 'energy' is an abstract number that is a ...
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What temperature can you attain with a solar furnace?

A solar furnace is a device that concentrates the sun's light on a small point to heat it up to high temperature. One can imagine that in the limit of being completely surrounded by mirrors, your ...
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What do we mean when we talk about Gibbs Free Energy?

Before I start, I'm aware that this question may be better suited on the Chemistry or Biology site, but it's my belief that physicists are more likely to have a clear understanding on what certain ...
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Is an entropic force an actual force that can be explained as a fundamental interaction?

Fundamental interactions, such as electromagnetism, the strong force, the weak force, and possibly gravitation, all have something in common: They can be described in terms of relativistic quantum ...
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Spontaneous conversion of heat into work at negative temperatures

Consider a heavy macroscopic object moving in a gas. Friction causes its kinetic energy to be converted into heat. Thermodynamically, there is (effectively) no entropy associated with the kinetic ...
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Finding two dimensional critical point

I'm reading an article about bi layered membranes which state that for the free energy function $f(\theta) = \theta \ln \theta + (1-\theta)\ln(1-\theta) + \chi \theta (1-\theta)$ Where $\phi_i$ is ...
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How is information defined from a thermodynamics point of view?

How is information defined from a thermodynamics point of view ? I came across some definitions using the concept of free energy of a system. If I have information stored in a finite volume of space ...
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Should I heat my room when I'm not here, energy-efficiently speaking?

I was wondering as it's getting cold : is it better for my electricity bill to shut down completely my (electric) heater during day, and to turn it on again when I come home (then it will have to heat ...
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Why is there water coming out of a car’s tail pipe?

I notice yesterday that my neighbor’s car had water coming out of the exhaust pipe in the morning. My first response was since the hot exhaust is hotter than the cold tail pipe, heat is transferred ...
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Is it 11% hotter today than it was yesterday?

Yesterday the temperature outside was 0.5 °C. Today, the temperature is 30 °C. 30 is 5300% more than 0.5, but today is obviously not 5300% hotter than yesterday. In Fahrenheit, the temperatures are ...
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What happens to a body, initially at 300K, kept in isolated space? Will it's temperature drop to 0k?

With regards to Thermal Radiation, given a stable body initially at 300 Kelvin placed in isolation, after continuous Thermal Radiation will it's temperature gradually reduce to 0 kelvin ...
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What equation of state is needed for liquid states?

I'm familiar with the ideal gas law $$PV=nRT$$ but I don't think it applies to liquids like water. If I'm wrong, please correct me! If I'm right, then what equation of state applies to liquids such ...
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Sauna thermodynamics

Why does it get hotter (feel hotter) in a sauna when one pours water over the hot stones? Wikipedia says that the water condenses onto the skin, but the actual air humidity is so low that I doubt ...